C-Span Talks Shakespeare

C-Span has put their video library online, and never being one to pass up a chance of typing “Shakespeare” into a search engine, they’ve got some pretty interesting results available. Peter Brook, Myra Manning, George Whitman and others are featured. Check it out.

Tina Packer on Leadership

The American Shakespeare Center plays host to another Federal Executive Institute today, and Shakespeare & Co’s Tina Packer, director of this semester’s M.Litt/MFA production of Pericles was on hand to talk on leadership in Shakespeare’s works. While this is a private event, your friendly neighborhood OCS education department blogger is on hand to bring you the inside scoop.

Packer starts by asking what struck institute attendees from their readings from her book Power Plays, which institute attendees have been reading, and what has moved them personally in the last couple of years. She promises to also “spill her guts” to help get the conversation moving. While going around the room, Packer introduces the idea that leaders need “to be the generator of the energy.” Persuasion and manipulation can go hand in hand. “Am I manipulating everybody? Yes. Can they be happy I’m manipulating them? I hope so. I’m only averse when you’re manipulating them to something bad.”

Packer characterizes rhetoric as being the essential component of Renaissance education. “Whether they were studying history or the humanities” the students of the Elizabethan schools were always studying the art of communication. This is what enabled the enlightenment, and Packer identifies the influence of Renaissance rhetoric on the founding documents of the United States. She considers that modern sensibilities of truthfulness have veered away from refined language and the art of communication. We too often today associate honesty with being “a man of few words” and focus on “truthful grunting.” This, she argues, is not a type of communication conducive to effective leadership. The tools of acting and persuasion can be used to create a more truthful leader who is more connected to both their causes and those whom they lead.

“We often don’t know how our creativity is going to affect other people” she says, citing Ira Aldritch’s influence on British Parliament’s decision to not support the Confederacy during the American Civil War. She argues that human beings are inherently creative, and that by harnessing the impulse to play with others that we all share, you can start to become truly creative. “All resistance is energy that’s blocked,” she says.

She concludes her session by having institute attendees experience finding the tension in their own bodies in an attempt to release that tension. She also directs them in a breathing exercise to help them control themselves through control of their bodies. With that, it’s time for the FEI to move on to another session, but Packer leaves us on a great note of individual empowerment, and with another great example of art influencing life.

And it’s time for me to be moving along, too, but thank you for joining the American Shakespeare Center Education Department once again.

Carter Hailey, Tiffany Stern, and Zachery Lesser present "On Paper: Documents of Performance"

Our partners in Mary Baldwin College’s M.Litt/MFA program have arranged for three of the worlds leading scholars on Early Modern theatre to lecture today at the Blackfriars. Carter Hailey, designer of the Hailey’s COMET portable optic collator, Tiffany Stern, the Beaverbrook and Bouverie Fellow and Tutor in English at University College, Oxford, and Zachery Lesser, author of the award winning Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication: Readings in the English Book Trade. Hailey and Stern both presented at our recent Blackfriars Conference, and we’re all eager to hear what their bringing to the Blackfriars this evening.

Paul Menzer introduces our guest scholars by pointing out that paper is one of the key raw materials and waste products of the world of performance, but that we make conscious efforts to remove any sign of paper from the world of the performance space. “The Playhouse is a virtual scriptorium,” Menzer says, noting that the backstage areas contain several computers, printers, and copiers, along with stacks of internal documentation, and books for sale in the lobby. Paper enables performance, facilitating and memorializing it, and today’s lecturers will help focus our attention on the raw material that we use to construct our theatrical world.

Carter Hailey: Artefacts of the Early Modern Professional Theatre: The Paper Trail
Hailey describes himself as a “book detective,” and introduces his studies as being akin to the way an archaeologist examines an artifact. He examines books in a similar way, “like archaeology without the mud.” In his analysis of books as physical objects, Hailey has been recently drawn to watermark designs. Watermarks are imprints in the paper (you may be familiar with the term from its usage in digital photography), and they come in a variety of characters including pots, crowns, and bears. Manuscripts and printed books, like other archeological artifacts, give us clues to the cultures that produced them, and the watermarks in the paper of the early modern period are a great key to understanding the process of manufacturing linen paper and books.

Paper was, in Early Modern London, a more consciously visible part of the book. In Histriomastix, William Prynne complains not just about the printing of play books in folio, but that the paper used to print them is of a better quality than in many Bibles printed at the time. References to quires can be found in Shakespeare’s 73rd Sonnet (“bare ruined choirs”), further implying a self consciousness of the process of book making.

Hailey describes the development in the time of a “turned chain quarto.” The description comes from the fact that chain lines in the paper of a folio usually ran vertically, whereas in quartos they tend to run horizontally. Turned chain quartos, comprising less than 1% of extant quartos, are slightly larger than the standard quarto format, and have vertical chain lines; Hailey describes them as resembling a folio in miniature. While some scholars dismiss the format as an anomaly resulting from a bad run of paper, Hailey dismisses this due to the breadth of authors and genres produced in the turned chain quarto format. The format was produced by different printers at different times, and it would have been impractical for printers (or anyone else) to keep a stock of “bad” paper like that over the period. The cost for a turned chain quarto would have been at least 50% higher than a standard quarto, making it further improbable that it was simply an attempt to eliminate bad stock.

Hailey argues that the slightly more rectangular shape of the TCQs, coupled with their vertical chain line, is made to suggest the folio format. There was likely a limited market for these TCQs, but they challenge the notion that early modern play texts were not considered material of literary prestige.

Tiffany Stern

Stern begins by showing us an example of differently offset text from the folio. The Song” and “A Letter” both appear in italics, suggesting stage directions, but they are not stage directions in the commonly understood sense. Stern contrasts these with the title of the epilogue of the play, which modern editors tend to accept as the title of a separate section and leave intact.

Stern goes on to call attention to the lost songs in Marston’s Antonio and Mellida and in Shakepseare’s Julius Caesar. In the former case the name of the song is printed large, but both the lyrics and the music are lost. In the latter case, a stage direction simply says a song is to be played without any indication of what it might be. Fro Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass, Stern refers to a stage direction “Hee gives him a paper wherein is the copy of a Song.” This argues for the separation of song text from play text within the playhouse, which indicates that the songs given to printers may have been separate.

Stern goes on to further show how printers have mislaid lines surrounding songs within the play text. She cites an example of an extant song compared to the song printed in the text of the play. The song in the play text includes additional lyrics, which is suggestive of a printer mis-setting text. The opposite is also true: songs within texts are sometimes set as lines of text and not as songs. A further example is a printed margin note of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfy “The Author disclaims this ditty as his;” which means that the author saw the song in the printing process when it was too late to remove it from the run, and so (in keeping with stop-press correction practices used at the time), the marginalia was added.

From Quarles’ The Virgin Widow, Stern offers the example of a bill, read by one of the characters, laid out in the same manner as an actual bill. She proposes that the bill may have been laid out in the prompter’s book to show how to make the property, or that the stage property was brought to the printer. In either case, the representation in print is a pointer to the representation of the object in performance.

“We’ve been tricked into thinking that the term stage direction is a stage direction,” Stern says. These are more often “scribe directions;” cross references to the inclusion of another textual object. Thus the “stage direction” “red ink” appears in The Spanish Tragedy: perhaps the letter is to appear as if it is written in blood and this is a reminder to the book-keeper, or perhaps there was a note in the printers copy indicating that this part is to be printed using red ink. Whichever the case, it is clearly not a playable action for the stage.

Prologues and epilogues suffer similar fates. They were paper documents of performance, like letters, notes, wills, and songs. From surviving wood cuts of the period, we can infer that prologues and epilogues were materials that were read on the stage. They were not always included with texts, and thus many are lost.

Zachary Lesser: 1594: When Plays Became Playbooks

Lesser begins by calling attention to the tongue in cheek nature of his title, saying that “printed playbooks, like sexual intercourse, had been there all along.” Many plays from the professional London stages of 1593 and before never made it into print, and even fewer of them have come to us in manuscript form. Lesser offers evidence demonstrating the number of plays printed in 1594 nearly quadruples from the next most productive year: 5 were printed in 1592, 18 in 1594. After 1594, numbers fell to single digits again. Why this spike in 1594?

Some scholars have argued that piracy was a key factor in the rapid explosion of plays in 1594, but others have argued that the publication of manuscripts might have served as advertising. Even if companies were more willing to bring their scripts into print, contrary to their previous practice, why would the stationers want them? There was no evidence of a high demand of playbooks before. Contradictorily, if there was no market for playbooks, why would London playing companies want to use an unpopular and untested market as advertising for their already popular offerings?

Lesser demonstrates that playbooks were not a risky investment for printers, which casts aspersions on the theory that the 1594 spike representing a glutting of the market. “Plays published in the 1590s were more likely to sell out within 5 years than other books were in 20 years,” he says. Sales and reprint rate of play texts should have dropped off if the 1594 spike represented an over supply in the market place, but this was not the case. From entry in the Stationers’ Register to availability for purchase usually happened within the period of a year, but entries made between June and May of 1594 often did not appear for several years. Lesser demonstrates this delay in publication as being the result of three printers with a large supply of titles in their companies not wanting to “hedge their bets by printing them all at once… In both cases, the publishers purchased a number of scripts around the same period, published some, and waited to see how they would perform.” There is the possibility that the publishers could simply not keep up with the demand of printing, or that they were being cautious in releasing their holdings. In either case, Lesser sees this as what one would expect to see at the beginning of a new market.

In the time between1598 and 1613, a significant number of first editions and reprints were printed. The marketplace for printed playbooks, young and developing in the early 1590s, had a chance to mature. Conventional wisdom, which says that playbooks were not popular commodities, does not hold up to the facts of the number of printed playbooks. This popularity of the medium is why most of the plays we know have come down to us today.

And with that, we’ll have to bring this forum to a close. To paraphrase Dr. Menzer, we must now repeat history and let paper yield to performance so the actors can get ready for tonight’s Twelfth Night, but just as I recall when from the Blackfriars Conference, my head feels full. I must beg pardon of our guest scholars, and of all of you: the notes that I have been able to take on their work tonight of necessity only reflects part of their work, and I doubt does justice to their scholarship. From their research however, I can derive some solace. The print artifacts of Renaissance London have left us with an incomplete picture of the world of performance, and even as this is about to enter the world of hypertext, apparently not a lot has changed in 400 years.

Spring Thesis Festival – Session 3

Welcome to the final session of the Spring 2010 Thesis Festival. We start off with Sarah Gusky Kemer’s “Gesture, Movement, Analysis, and Text,” where Kemer has researched the use of gesture and movement to understand text in her classroom. Kemer explores the vocabulary of movement in her classroom, and attempts to teach her students to understand the gestural language of a person and a performer. She then moved her students into explorations of how gesture and posture could be use to create meaning in a text, having them create stage pictures between Bottom and Quince in the rehearsal scene. From the general use of the body to the specific use of hands, Kemer introduces her students to American Sign Language, specifically the relation of the shape of the hand to the body.

From their work with ASL, Kemer moves her students into Laban, and the idea of graphically representing meaning and gesture. This led to an exercise whereby Kemer has her students perform a scene using only the language of movement and gesture. Kemer and her students discussed the challenges of performing the more linguistically complicated scenes, but while student groups agreed that their peers understanding of movement vocabulary applied to text, they had more critical opinions of their own work. Kemer takes this as a positive sign, as it shows her students have an understanding of their movement work that allows them to imagine other possibilities.

Now we’ll move on to Edward Sheehan and “The Martyr’s Function, The Martyr’s Cause, Coriolanus and Timon of Athens.” Sheehan explores martyrdom as “a telescope from which one can only look backward” in trying to understand the function of both Timon and Coriolanus. Sheehan cites John Jowett in drawing similarities between the two: in both cases the characters see themselves standing outside of the normal give and take at the heart of any society, and both suffer the ill effects of their excesses in attempting to live beyond their abilities. Neither one of these men is capable of living meaningfully outside of their societies.

Timon and Coriolanus both only reveal their own feelings when no others are present, and here the audience sees them as conflicted. The “role of the martyr that both play is, essentially, a role,” and the two both reveal themselves uncomfortable with the roles they have chosen to play and their own desires. As Timon meets Flavius, his steward, in the latter scenes of the play, he comes close to retrieving his humanity, but pulls back from this desires at the last moment, rejecting “any last vestiges of humanity he may have possessed.”

Unlike Shakespeare’s most heralded heroes or tragic figures, we are not meant o identify with them, we are meant to confront them and our feelings toward them. Coriolanus and Timon both embody tragic virtues that set them apart from other tragic heroes. This is, Sheehan argues, precisely the function of a martyr. Timon presents himself as a martyr to insufficient social virtues that Shakespeare is powerless to change; he essentially dies for nothing and goes unrevenged. Coriolanus shares a similar fate. Shakespeare means for us to be disheartened by these works, but the martyrdom of both characters allows the audience to consider themselves in relation to the values they hold dear.

With that, we’ll bring our 2010 Spring Thesis festival to a close. Thank you for joining us for our live blog of these thesis presentations. See you again soon!

Spring Thesis Festival – Session 2, Part 3

Well that was fun. Thanks to Victoria for taking over for me as I operated a demon-dragon. Im back now for Shannon Schultz’s “Holy Saint Francis, what a change is here?: The Evolution of Romeo and Juliet.” Schultz examines Romeo and Juliet as a phenomenon that has become ingrained in the culture, and how that has a tendency to limit the text in performance. She examines how the characters of Romeo and Juliet have become universal and generic, and have been divorced from the text of the play. Most specifically, Schultz examines the ideals of Romeo and Juliet in popular music across a variety of genre and artists, including Taylor Swift, Pop Evil, and Eagle Eye Cherry. This is necessary toward preserving Shakespeare as a contemporary cultural icon: the repurposing of Shakespeare’s works, Romeo and Juliet in particular, is necessary for keeping it alive. Productions of this play must grow beyond the pop culture definitions of what the play means if they are to be successful.

Essentially, popular culture’s continued re-processing of Romeo and Juliet is a sign of life. Whether or not that helps or hinders the production of a play is up to the play makers. i.e. us.

That seems like a good place to bring this session of the Spring Thesis festival to a close. We’ll be back at 5:30 with our third and final session of the festival.

Spring Thesis Festival – Session 2, Part 2

Following Elissa Dubinsky in the second session of today’s thesis project festival, Sarah Keyes presented Puppets on the Early Modern Stage. Puppet shows were a popular form of entertainment in early modern England, but we know little of how puppet shows were incorporated into the drama of the period. Most of the evidence surrounding these shows is from provincial records and the terms themselves are fluid: for instance, puppet shows were sometimes called “motions.” She points to The Blind Beggar of Bednall Green and Bartholemew Fair as a primary examples of plays that feature puppet shows, and cites multiple quotes from the latter play that make reference to puppet shows. Keyes points to Henslow’s diary, which lists dragons and dogs as properties, and dumb shows by Luprene that suggest that the actors used puppets rather than dressing up as animals to perform the dumb shows. The B text of Doctor Faustus, has a stage direction, enter a devil, Mephistophiles, in the shape of a dragon, and Keyes suggests that the dragon was a puppet. Keyes argues that the dragon/devil (synonymous terms in the early modern period) would have come through the trap in the floor, as the woodcuts and the cue in the promptbook suggest, and demonstrates her argument with a successful staging. In discussing the terms, “puppet”–which during the early modern period had derogratory connotations of frivolity, emptyheadedness, or religious idolotry–and “motion”–gestures, bodily movements, impulses of the mind and body–Keyes demonstrates that puppet shows deal with base humour, bodily functions, religious satire, or frivolity.

Spring Thesis Festival – Session 2, Part 1

Hi everyone, I’m back. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be helping Sarah Keyes with her presentation this afternoon, so I’ve recruited fellow graduate student Victoria Reinsel to keep things up to date while I operate a puppet.

First up, we’ll have MFA candidate Elissa Dubinksy presenting “Staging Henry IV, Part 1 in the Classroom: Using Dramaturgical Practices to Teach Shakespeare through Performance.” Dubinsky starts off by introducing her approach to dramaturgy as being the sort that is geared more toward the classroom than for performance. She highlights, however, the importance of performance in understanding the work of Shakespeare, and details some of her dramatrgical work as a teacher’s assistant in introducing a performance based-curriculum toward understanding the play. The introduction to the performance based curriculum had some predictable difficulties, requiring instructor intervention to highlight what stage actions were communicated through the lines of the text, but it was not long before they were discovering these moments on their own. It was from these experiences that led Dubinsky to develop a modern performance edition for students.

In preparing this edition, she used the Moby Shakespeare as it was an electronic, public domain text in modern spelling. She keeps Shakespeare’s text separated from the comments on stage directions, and uses footnotes doe individual word definitions. She also highlights the contrast between explicit stage directions and embedded ones, citing Gadshill’s need to borrow a lantern in 1 Henry IV as an example. Her performance text highlights clues within the text of the scene to suggest stage action that could create meaning in performance. She explores other scenes from 1 Henry IV, including Falstaff’s boasting of his fight and wounds during the robbery, Glendwr and Hotspur arguing over the map, and Falstaff’s mocking of the king, Hal’s father.

The crux of Dubinsky’s argument lies in the acceptance that literature students are too unfamiliar with staging conventions to envision dramatic possibilities on their own. The edits she has made to the text are to, in her words, help her students “see the text through a theatrical lens.” In Q&A Justin Schneider (who was heard form this morning) points out that there may be a danger in making these directions too specific as it limits the imaginative possibilities of the scene. Although Dubinsky argues that she has attempted to keep the directions vague enough to allow for interpretation, another audience member suggests phrasing these directions as questions. Dubinsky admits that she hadn’t considered that, but stands by her affirmation that she wants to keep the focus of her edition on students who are less familiar with reading Shakespeare as a performance text.

And now I need to run down to the trap room to get ready to unleash a dragon, so I’ll turn this over to Victoria.

Spring Thesis Festival – Session 1

Mary Baldwin College’s M.Litt/MFA Spring 2010 Thesis Festival is here, and right out of the starting gate we’ve got Veronica Watts, presenting “Meeting Virginia State 9th grade Language Arts Standards of Learning Through Best Practices Instruction of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.” Watts explores survey statistics analyzing how Virginia teachers approach teaching the texts of Shakespeare in general, and Romeo and Juliet in particular. She explores issues that educators face, such as administrators who are opposed paying actors to perform in their schools. Watts also explores some approaches to teaching Shakespeare using performative components.

Next we have Justin Schneider presenting “Live Nude Dramaturgy.” Schneider begins by declaring his preference for the question “why a dramaturg” as opposed to “what is a dramaturg.” He compares the use of a dramaturg in a production to visiting Italy with a knowledgeable tour guide as opposed to just a guidebook. He establishes the ethical responsibility of the dramaturg as someone whom, if incorrect, will likely not be noticed as such. For his presentation, Schneider demonstrates the dramaturgical process by having his actors read through a scene and ask him follow up questions.

Concluding our morning session we have Bonnie Morrison presenting “Country Clowns to City Wits: Kempe, Armin, and the Development of Shakespeare’s Fools.” As the title of her thesis predicts, Morrison reviews some of the changes in the development of clowns between when Will Kempe left the Chamberlain’s Men and was replaced by Robert Armin, but her thesis is that both of these men may have been members of the Chamberlain’s Men at the same time. Morrison cites the fact that Kempe referred to himself as one of the Chamberlain’s Men during his nine day’s Morris dance to Norwich. There is no clear evidence to indicate why Kempe left the Chamberlain’s, but the plays in the Worcester’s Men’s repertory seem to be less conducive to his particular clowning style. Hamlet, Morrison points out, has roles for two clowns, the first and second gravediggers, and was written at the time when both men would have been in the Chamberlain’s simultaneously, if in fact they were.

Bringing the morning session to a wrap, we’ll break for the moment and be back a little bit later with some more

William Proctor Williams

The distinguished bibliographic and textual scholar William Proctor Williams, author of An Introduction to Bibliographical and Textual Studies, visited the Blackfriars for a Q&A session today, and I’m pleased to say that I got to sit in on it. Over the course of the session, Williams addressed questions related to Early Electronic Books Online (EEBO), and by students interested in creating their own editions of some early-modern works for performance and/or publication.

On the question of EEBO, Williams talked about some of the problems he had with the collection. “The problem with EEBO is that it is digitizing from microfilm, which was done badly over a period of about 70 years,” he says. The manuscripts were initially photographed to microfilm, and then the EEBO collection was created using microfilm, but the quality of the microfilm itself may have bad. This process is still being done, and the Williams feels that the quality and accuracy of the procedure is “not great.” He cites an instance of reading through a large book and discovering that the text stopped abruptly, and he found himself through another large book; attributing this to the original photographers leaving a text half-finished over night, and not remembering which text to start from the next day.

Williams highlights some other problems with EEBO: you can’t tell anything about the paper, blind strikes (when the type made a mark on the paper, but there was no ink on the type), and that you can’t use the Povey system (which lets you see where type has pressed through the paper, and thus can help determine which side was printed first). More recent online databases, such as Shakespeare Quartos Online, do color photo scans of quartos without resorting to microfilm copy. Williams concludes that “A print on your wall of the Mona Lisa doesn’t have any effect on the Mona Lisa. That’s what EEBO is. It’s a copy of a document, and we need to think about it as such. These databases are really good for some things.”

On the topic of preparing editions, Williams says “I am an editor, and we do terrible things, and that’s why things need to be re-edited.” The myth of a definitive edition is exactly that because no one edition will serve all circumstances. When asked how one should treat a text for which the author is unknown (by yours truly), Williams replied to “treat it like Hamlet.” Williams also asserts that “No play was ever printed from foul papers, and feel free to quote me on this, no printer would accept it.” Printers couldn’t afford to have their apprentices spend time trying to decipher a playwright’s individual hand, and so the material they set their type from still would not have come from the hand of the author. Since all texts of the period went through fundamentally the same editing process, there is no reason to treat the texts any differently.

Thanks to William Proctor Williams for answering our questions, and to Paul Menzer from Mary Baldwin College’s M.Litt/MFA program for arranging this event.

Welcome to the OCS’s Education Blog

Hi everyone, remember me? I’m that guy who reported on the 2009 American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Conference, and they apparently liked it so much that they want me to keep all you good people of the Internet updated on the goings on here in the OCS’s Education department. We start off with a teacher seminar keynote presented by Kendra Preston Leonard.

Here’s a subject very near and dear to my heart: sound design; or in this case, sound and music on the Shakespearean stage. Having spent nearly a decade calling myself a sound designer, I have a keen feeling about how music can affect a play. The right soundtrack will clarify and enhance a good production, or will shrewdly subvert the text. In this teacher seminar’s keynote,Leonard examines the use of music on stage and film, citing the Roman Polanksi Macbeth, which uses traditional music for the domestic scenes of the Macbeth household, and a modern band for the scenes of the witches.
A further example is Tim Supple’s 2003 Twelfth Night, which uses four different musical cultures in the film: “high art” (i.e. The Magic Flute) indian, folk, and rock. Supple uses these four different musical cultures to reflect the cultural conflict that he explores in his production, in which Viola and Sebastian are East Indian refugees in London. Different types of music also help underscore (pun intended) Viola’s transformation in Cesario and her assimilation in the different cultures of the world of London. “Hold thy Peace” is a raucous hard rock jam, for example, and in Feste’s finale, all four musical elements are brought together.
Leonard contrasts this with She’s the Man, which cuts much of the plot to set Twelfth Night in a prep school environment. This is perhaps useful for showing students how the modernization of Shakespare’s language often falls flat. Much of the Twelfth Night‘s plot is subverted to the idea of “girl power:” this Viola is able to out-do the men in soccer and academia, and still be able to be the feminine debutante that her mother wants her to be. Here the music helps underscore the different gender roles that Viola plays as she switches them throughout the course of the movie. 

Following the keynote on the use of music and film in teaching the plays, discussion follows about the various ways that music can be used in the classroom to help illuminate the shows. Some of the ways suggested include having students come p with their own music for the shows, and even creating their own music for the “Hold thy Peace” catch in Twelfth night if conditions permit. All of which are great exercises for an introductory sound design class, in this humble sound designer’s opinion.